Thursday, September 17, 2009

Champions Online: The Honeymoon is Over

Champions seemed great in beta. With everything else going on in the gaming world and the fact that your beta characters would be wiped at launch, I didn't really delve too deeply into the game because I wanted to save enough of the content for playing the game I'd paid for. I tried about 7 different power sets and played up to about level 15 a few times, but left the rest for Live.

At my current rate, I might end up not seeing that content anyway.

Sure, part of that is because of all the time I'm spending in LoL, along with the necessity that I now log into WoW every day to get my goddamn triumph emblems from the daily heroic. Thanks so much Blizzard, for the privilege of having to do that annoying daily grind of faceroll content just to keep up with current raiding. I hate you so much.

Add to that the fact that my 10-man WoW guild is currently dying in a fire against Mimiron hard mode (mastered the first 3 phases, hopefully get phase 4 down tonight!) while exploiting the cheap gear-reset known as Trial of the Crusader (or it is Champion? I can never remember) for all its worth. It takes us less time to clear that place than it takes to fly from there back to Ulduar where the real content still is. These Triumph Emblem vendors outside ToC are very accurately named:

Glad you find this phoned-in, anti-casual (forced to log in every day) patch hilarious, Blizz. You better really enjoy the recliner you've made out of my money.

But the competition isn't the only reason I'm not playing Champions half as much as I expected. I still love the character creator, love the ideas behind picking your powers, and find the game mostly fun. But a lot of problems are cropping up that are keeping me from even getting to 25 to try out my Nemesis (who should have been available from level 10 or so, frankly).

1. Account Problems

First of all, there was a screw-up in the Champions database where some accounts conveniently forgot that they had been activated by a product key. And Cryptic didn't really say anything about this, or respond to the numerous forum threads about it. It took a service ticket on their website and finally a follow-up phone call to get my girlfriend's account re-activated, since the system would no longer accept her product key because, well, obviously it had already been used. My account worked even though we both entered our keys side by side exactly the same way, while sitting in the same room, and were both able to play on day 1. When we tried to play again on day 3 (this was well before that "early start keys no longer work" thing on the 6th, so that's not the culprit), suddenly hers didn't work anymore. I chose not to play out of solidarity while we waited for a response from their website, and the 3 days of waiting seriously sapped our enthusiasm about the game. It's hard to commit to an MMO after a mistake like that.

It took a phone call a few days later to finally get it fixed. To Cryptic's credit, there was zero wait for a representative and she was extremely polite and helpful and got the account up and running in a matter of minutes. But playing the game you paid for should not require a phone call.

2. CO's "action-oriented" engine can't handle it when you hold a key down

CO is supposed to be a more action-ey MMO. So how come the controls just completely break down when you try to time a block or use a "charged" or "maintained" power that requires keeping a key pressed? Almost every other battle the following will happen:

1) I hold down the 4 key to activate my maintained attack.
2) Nothing happens
3) I notice and let go of the button
4) I hold down the button again
5) The power activates for half a second as though I had tapped the key, putting the ability on cooldown while doing almost no damage, because it wasn't "maintained."

If I HOLD DOWN the key twice and the game thinks I tapped it once, it fails. This happens constantly, about half the powers require you hold a key, and I've heard it mentioned by every reviewer or blogger who has talked about the game. It's a universal error, and inexcuseable in a game where all you do is fight.

3. The quest gap

There aren't enough quests in the game to cover your entire leveling experience. "So what?" you say, "just grind mobs!"

Except the game is balanced such that, for example, a quest will give 5,000 xp while a mob gives 10. You do the math about how many mobs I need to grind to cover for one missing quest.

I thought this was a great idea in beta, because it discouraged grinding. It would have been a great idea if there was enough content to get you to 40.

4. Repetitition, followed by repeating rehashes

Making multiple characters is the fun of the game! Getting new powers and trying them out is a blast!

None of that matters because you have to do the exact same content every single time! If I have to do the tutorial again, I'm going to kill myself! Powers are doled out so slowly it makes people waiting in line at the DMV feel bad for you!


So we don't log in much, when faced on our mains with the prospect of scrounging for what few quests we can find with the next big carrot (nemesis) still seeming so far away and our powers only occassionally actually working anyway. We could go play one of those other characters we so excitedly designed in the creator, but then we'd have to grind through the same boring content again.

The honeymoon with Champions is already over - but I'm not looking for a divorce. However, I am afraid that one day I'll wake up and forget I ever met her.

It's looking like I'll let my sub lapse at the end of the month, but I don't yet regret my purchase. I strongly suspect that I'll come back to the game a few months from now, after patches fill in some of the gaps, turning this into the game it should have been at release. In the meantime, I just can't fit it in between WoW, LoL, and now Aion.

I'm sorry if anyone bought the game partly based on my recommendation and was disappointed. The first 20 or so hours of playing with the character creator and seeing the early content for the first time IS a blast, and I still really like the game. It's just not quite winning in the competition for my gaming time right now, but I expect it will again in the future.


Ixobelle said...

holy shit, I had to fire up wowhead to make sure you weren't posting clever photoshops of the vendor names.

I can't believe they actually put that in there, pretty slap in the face-ish... although I can happily say I haven't run a heroic anything in forever. After a few of the 5 man tournament thing (normal and heroic), plus a few fluke VOAs where I won like, everything, my warrior is now possibly the best geared out of my 3 'mains', and has a furious/relentless pvp set to boot, and doesn't even pvp : /

Rem said...

Not to bash Champions (although I'd like to), but whenever the phrase "the game it should have been at release" is uttered, it's basically a tombstone inscription. AoC is now the game it should have been at release, and it's really good - only no one cares any more.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

The button press thing is partly lag, and partly that shift is both block and modifier.

Make your block button something else, and you might run into the problem less often.

Hatch said...

Will try WoW my autorun is shift+R, and that led to hilarious results in Champion's beta when hitting shift to autorun would block, which turned off super-jump in mid-air, causing me to plummet to my death.

Oliver said...

I think it deserves to be noted that there is no gun to your head. ;)

Oliver said...

I should clarify that comment was in response to the WoW issue. The CO problem is pretty bad, and I empathize on both points there. I thought it was a fun game to a point and an interesting novelty, but like CoH/Cov and Star Wars Galaxies before it, I got the feeling there was very little actual "game" there. The quests got to be very repetitive. Concept and character creator are amazing, but there has to be more to a game than that.

Hatch said...

When I say "forced", it's more in a "I have a certain goal, and I have to do this ridiculous unrelated activity just to accomplish that goal". Basically, I'm gimping myself and my raid if I don't do the heroic daily every day. So I wish they hadn't put that option in. Wouldn't matter if we weren't pushing hard modes, but as it stands we're depending on each other to eke out every last bit of performance we can from our gear. I didn't have to do this to keep up before, now I do, so the change sucks IMO. Especially because facerolling dailies in our gear is so inane and has nothing to do with raiding.

It's a lot like how back in the day you had to spend an hour (or more) gathering herbs every day to keep up with the consumable requirements for raiding. It's almost exactly like that, in fact. And they took that out for a reason.

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